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Shaming Thailand: officials tell tourists they are taking away their legal personal umbrellas at Phuket's Surin beach this afternoon

Analysis: Thailand's Government Must Strip Councils of Control of Phuket's Beaches

Friday, November 28, 2014
Phuketwan News Analysis

PHUKET: The involvement of the police and soldiers in confiscating personal beach umbrellas from tourists on a Phuket beach today is a shameful reflection on Thailand's reputation for not being able to tell right from wrong.

Little wonder that some tourists threw outlawed umbrellas into the sand and stomped off, swearing never to return again.

The local councils cannot run Phuket's beaches. There is not much connected to tourism that they can run.

These are the same councils that have allowed Phuket's taxi drivers to develop a ''we rule the island'' mentality and charge some of the world's highest fares for world's poorest service.

These are the same councils that have allowed jet-ski operators to grow in numbers, to take control of at least one of Phuket's west-coast holiday beaches, to scam tourists with regularity, and to ignore pleas for them to moderate their behavior.

These are the same councils that allowed illegal beach clubs and restaurants to flourish on the foreshores and permitted entire beaches to be covered by illegal umbrellas and sunbeds.

With soldiers and police now seizing personal umbrellas from tourists on Surin beach on the orders of a local mayor, umbrellas that the tourists were using legally, it's time for Phuket to recognise that the beaches should be taken out of the control of the local councils.

Create a Phuket Beach Authority, give the Royal Thai Navy the added role of caring for and protecting Phuket's beaches, and keep the commercial activities of the greedy locals off the beaches and foreshores.

Prevent Thailand from becoming a laughing stock. Give Phuket tourism a real future, before it's too late.

A Phuketwan Reader Comments:

TODAY I WAS ordered to take off my umbrella and my little chair from Surin Beach. The order was given to me by a person in civilian clothes accompanied by men of the Military Police armed with machine guns. I have performed the order immediately, because I think that I must respect the law of Thailand, the country that hosts me kindly. But this is not the way to welcome tourists who come from countries free and liberals. Finally I have not yet figured out who's in charge in Thailand if the government, governors, mayors, the military, the police? Now seriously think of leaving Thailand and try other country where you can enjoy the sea and the sun without restrictions and continuous conflicting orders of unwritten laws and change from day to day by officials and politicians incapable of administering a wonderful country like Thailand.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


I back your idea of creating a beach authority but I feel the reputation of Phuket's authority has now become a laughing stock. I hope many pictures of these army men with machine guns escorting innocent tourists off a beach for having an umbrella makes Thailand realise what a farce Phuket's authorities have become.

Posted by Syd on November 28, 2014 18:23


Fine but do you contact the authorities about this or just expect them to read your website and comply?

Posted by phonus balonus on November 28, 2014 19:04

Editor Comment:

PW is well-read by Phuket authorities, PB. But you may contact them and add your squeaky little anonymous voice.


Can you believe this circus? What an absolute farce.

Posted by Hugh Jarse on November 28, 2014 19:06


of course!

otherwise clan-style economies emerge, and on a quite legitimate basis - as Karon council said they "promote local employment in 9 professions" - tuk tuk drivers, beach sun bed handlers and so on

Posted by Sue on November 28, 2014 19:26

Editor Comment:

Indeed. The income potential has always been the problem, which is why the nexus has to be broken between the council providers and the people who benefit. Sadly, that process ruins tourism on Phuket.


The idea for a beach authority is excellent - the only potential challenge is being able to find people to run it who are able to do so without being influenced by all the money to be made from the beaches - and have the brains and authority to put a proper sustainable plan in place and execute it.

Judging by other administrative authorities that will be one heck of a task ......

Posted by Amazing Thailand on November 28, 2014 19:29

Editor Comment:

The beaches are public so no money can be made from them. That's why the Royal Thai Navy must be involved.


It would be best if councils stuck to their core activities roads rates and rubbish any thing else they do turns into a farce.

Posted by slickmelb on November 28, 2014 19:53


People need to stop the belly-aching and just go somewhere else. The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

Nothing will change until tourists stop coming to Phuket and people start to really suffer financially. People have been living well sucking from the tourist tit and just taking and taking.

People really need to vote with their feet, it's not like there isn't anywhere else to go. Phuket needs to be taught a lesson about taking care of tourists instead of just gouging them for every baht.

Posted by Arun Muruga on November 28, 2014 20:00


Tourists were good when they helped after the tsunami . Not anymore .

Posted by augusto on November 28, 2014 21:09


@ Arun Muruga

I could not agree with you more. The ONLY thing that will force change on Phuket is substantial loss of income.

Far too long ever returning tourist hordes have been taken for granted and to the cleaners.

Well, guess what. Tourists are people just like everyone else and I've yet to meet a person who likes being disrespected and ripped off.

I actually hope that Phuket tourism would crash so financial realities would bring back a very fundamental element that is painfully lacking on Phuket:

Treat people nicely.

Posted by Herbert on November 28, 2014 22:35


The NCPO is a paper tiger, already bowing to these robber barons

Posted by Shwe on November 29, 2014 06:23



"People really need to vote with their feet"

They do it already.

My impression is that responsible and environmentally conscious, inquisitive, democratic socialized and civilized people get less and lesser.

I not speak about so called quality tourists. Just the normal Jimmy from next door.

The others come in ever bigger hordes. Seems they like it here very well.
It is paradise for them here compared with their home.

Posted by Georg The Viking on November 29, 2014 08:36


It is my opinion that greed, graft and corruption are so heavily ingrained in Thai society, that the fundamental concept of right and wrong no longer enters into any equation. It is also MHO that creating a new Phuket Beach Authority would just create another arm of corruption. You can't fix broken with broken. The only solution I can see is sacking every last member of the so-called police force, and replacing them with military personnel that conduct full-time foot patrols on all Thailand beaches. That said, I have no confidence that any sort of rational thinking and decision making will prevail. In this greedy and corrupt society that is Phuket, only money prevails.

Posted by Too Far Gone on November 29, 2014 11:26


Bye Bye Phuket this would of been my 16th stay in seven years, it was good while it lasted! Dam shame!

Posted by Steve on November 29, 2014 12:11


Three years ago I made a conscious decision never to spend any more time or money on Phuket after 27 years of long stay visits.

The take-over of the beaches was bad enough but it was the overall attitude of people there that became intolerable.

There was a cockiness that there will be a never-ending stream of tourists to fleece and prices can keep being put up without any effects.

Every day where I am now, I run into what I call "Phuket refugees" people who have fled Phuket for other places. All say the same thing, Phuket has become too expensive for the long term expat and people are sick of all the rip offs.

In the past it was us long timers who kept Phuket going in the low season. Now the locals are all crying poor as they get little out of the new tourists from China, Korea and India.

Posted by Arun Muruga on November 29, 2014 15:08


I quite liked the old umbrellas which were usually all the same colors and in neat rows. I did not think they looked ugly. However allowing people to put up a private umbrellas anywhere on the beach in a higaldy pigaldy fashion will surely detract from the natural beauty of these lovely beaches and will certainly not put our beaches in the same category as Bondi or Copacabana.

Posted by chill on November 29, 2014 16:21

Editor Comment:

Bondi has no sunbeds but allows sunlovers to bring their own umbrellas. I believe it's the same at Copacabana, and at Kuta in Bali - all great public beaches, all without sunbeds. Eventually, the sunbeds take over the entire beach, which is what happened on Phuket, and what will happen again if they're allowed back.


I am one of your "Phuket refugees", Arun Muruga. Couldn't write it any better! Anyhow, English is not my mother tongue...
Came to Phuket since 35 years and made it my retirement-home in 2001. Left four years ago and for my own surprise, enjoying my last few years countryside now!

Posted by herbert on November 29, 2014 19:28


I was in March in Rio! Copacabana and all the other beaches have sunbeds and umbrellas that you can rent as it was in Phuket the last years!

Posted by Reiner on November 29, 2014 22:55


Herbert and Arun

Would you share the secret of your new residences with us? Is it another tourist destination or countryside?

I consider to leave here too but have no idea until now.
Where is the place simular Phuket 20 years ago?

Posted by Georg The Viking on November 30, 2014 10:30


Well I'm in Nakhon Si Thammarat but you have Krabi, Chumphon and Ranong provinces as well. Khanom and Srichon are beaches here in Nakhon and they are very quiet and peaceful. Pak Meng beach in Trang is very nice too. Even Songkla has some nice places.

The cost of living off Phuket is about half. Last night dinner was 180 baht for 2 at a roadside place but in a restaurant I average about 300 baht for 2 people. Breakfast is usually 180 to 220 baht for 2 people.

Some of the beach resorts where Thais go can get pricey but I've never had a problem finding cheaper places. You are spoilt for choices now and everywhere has wi-fi and 7/11 so it's not like 30 years ago where it was rough going.

Posted by Arun Muruga on November 30, 2014 13:05



Yes, Khanom/Sichon is top on my list already. I plan to visit it in two weeks.

Pak meng in Trang is new information for me but only little detour.

Thanks Arun and thanks ED. Little off topic, sorry.

Posted by Georg The Viking on November 30, 2014 14:22


@ Georg the Viking
I left for someting completely different. No more beaches for me: Up north of Si Khiu (on the highway Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima). Very country-side and for some of my recent visitors, very boring!
Nevertheless, I love it!

Posted by herbert on November 30, 2014 19:43

Thursday April 18, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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